Another Chicago Ridge venue welcomes gambling
BY STEvE METSCH email@example.com May 9, 2014 9:22PM
PK's Pantry & Cafe manager Jack Canby (from left), owner Ashok Purohit and customer Jack Stevens are glad their long wait for the installation of five video gambling machines has ended. | Steve Metsch~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 12, 2014 6:55AM
It took more than a year, but video gambling machines finally are in place at PK’s Cafe in Chicago Ridge.
With that, the village has 84 such machines among 18 establishments. That’s one machine for every 170 residents, based on the 2010 census, which listed the population at 14,305.
It may seem like a lot, but proponents think there are enough players to go around, and video gambling has produced a steady revenue stream for the village, which at the current pace could realize $200,000 a year or more from a source that just two years ago did not exist.
PK’s Cafe owner Ashok Purohit, a soft-spoken 56-year-old man from India, is grateful the five machines now are operating in the small bar and grill he opened last year beside his convenience store, PK’s Pantry, on 107th Street west of Ridgeland. A door offers access between the two establishments.
The machines, Purohit said, will provide him more revenue to make improvements to his business. They also will allow his customers to gamble without having to travel to a casino. They have other reasons to stay put, too, he said.
“We have a full line of food at the restaurant, and we’re glad to have the games here,” Purohit said.
The menu features the usual fast-food fare such as buffalo wings, cheeseburgers, Polish sausage and hot dogs. There’s a full-service bar with cans of beer selling for a customer-friendly dollar each.
The money is flowing, too — including for the village. In March, the most recent month for which statistics are available on the Illinois Gaming Board website, the village received just under $17,800 in tax revenue from the then-total of 79 machines. Over a year at that rate, that’s more than $200,000.
Those machines were operating at 17 businesses around the village. None has more than five machines, the maximum set by state law. A whopping $4.2 million was wagered in the machines in March, with payouts of $3.8 million.
The profit is divided between Scientific Games, which runs the computer system, the state, the local government, the terminal operating company and the owner of the venue. Scientific Games gets less than 1 percent, Gaming Board spokesman Gene O’Shea said Friday.
Twenty-five percent of what’s left goes to the state, 5 percent to the local government. Then the terminal operating company and venue owner split what’s left, which can translate to thousands of dollars per month for restaurant and bar owners.
Purohit shook his head when asked if adding five machines will hurt other businesses.
Gina Courtright, manager of Jenny’s Steak House, at Menard Avenue and 111th Street, which has benefitted from having machines in the bar area, also thinks there’s room for more.
“I don’t think we’ve hit the saturation point yet,” she said Friday.
“We’ve got regulars that come in here to play,” Courtright said, nodding at five games in the bar, “and we have new people who come in. I don’t think they’re in here just for the games. We have the nice ambience and the great food, too. But they may play when they’re here.”
Income from the machines has paid for new flooring and lighting in the restaurant, which is marking its 13th year with sales prices on menu items, Courtright said.
“We’re always trying to improve the place and we’ll remodel the bar a bit soon,” she said.
The village’s top dog in terms of money wagered is J.P.’s Short Stop, a bar a couple of blocks west of Jenny’s. A whopping $497,000 was wagered there in March, according to the gaming board.
Why is so much invested? A bartender there Friday said, “People say they win a lot of money on our machines.”
Purohit is hoping his customers say the same.
Back in April 2013, the village board approved a new liquor license for Purohit so he could expand his business into the vacant storefront next door and add the bar and grill, which allowed him to apply for a gambling license. A business must have a license to pour alcohol (as opposed to just having package sales) to be eligible for the machines. Its owners also must undergo background checks, which can extend the approval process.
Purohit has said he never would have expanded to add the bar and grill if not for the promise of video gambling.
He and his brother Kailash, who came to America with him from India 30 years ago, have owned PK’s Pantry for 15 years. They have developed a strong and loyal customer base that Purohit believes will be frequent players.
Having had the grill open nearly a year has brought enthusiasm for the machines’ arrival.
“We’re doing good here. There were three other restaurants in this space before this grill. People come here for lunch, to watch sports. And now they can play the machines. Older people in the winter don’t have to take a shuttle, park, walk to the casino. They can come here instead,” he said.
In the early going, the machines have been generous, store manager Jack Canby said.
“Those are good. We’ve had people win anywhere from $300 to $650 the day they went up. A few people the next day hit for $400 and $500. We’ve got good food, gambling, friendly faces to keep people coming in here,” Canby said.
A grand opening for PK’s Grill will be held sometime this summer, Canby said.
The machines were installed May 5. Worth resident Jack Stevens played the machines the next two days. The machine he sat in front of when a reporter visited kept sounding an alarm as he chatted, reminding him to take his receipt. What was his king’s ransom?
“Fourteen cents,” Stevens said with hearty laugh, taking the slip to the automated machine to collect his winnings.
“It’s not enough to bet again,” he said, “so you have to cash it in unless you add some more money.”
Gambling is available at PK’s from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Canby said.